A week ago we wrote a post about Hollywood Studios and how the park appears to be stagnant after massive changes in recent years. Disney’s Animal Kingdom hasn’t had a complete makeover like DHS did but the future of the park remains a little bit of a mystery after adding Pandora – World of Avatar in 2017. There’s nothing this blog loves more than making things into a series! In this post, we’ll discuss five additions that Animal Kingdom could, and maybe should, make going forward.
While this post is about how to improve Animal Kingdom, don’t take that as an indictment on the park. We rank Animal Kingdom as the second best American Disney theme park right now, behind Disneyland. Others may disagree but the park is enveloping and extremely beautiful. The theme in the park is executed to near perfection and Animal Kingdom has a thesis that is far different from any other theme park. All of this makes for an original experience, especially when the park has all of its entertainment running.
There are issues though and the pandemic and slow reopening have made that all the more clear. With no entertainment in the park, the lack of actual rides in the park is an obvious shortcoming. Not surprisingly, many of the suggested changes in this post will center around that. The list of places that the park could go from here is narrower than Hollywood Studios but there are still smart and easy options. I’m going to list a few options that would be my personal preference below. Some are big ideas and detailed while others are more general or small. Without further ado, let’s get to the list!
A Lion King or Jungle Book Dark Ride
My first suggestion is the most obvious and one that fans have clamored for over the years. Animal Kingdom is void of dark rides unless you count Dinosaur or Na’vi River Journey. Both of those are stretches. If only Disney had popular IP’s that were based around animals! Even more obvious is that both of these movies I’ve listed above take place in Africa and Asia respectively, Animal Kingdom’s two largest lands. A Lion King dark ride next to Festival of the Lion King would create a nice mini land that is en vogue right now in theme parks. I think I’d probably prefer the Jungle Book option in the back of Asia near the wonderful Maharajah Jungle Trek. Honestly, adding both of these attractions would be wonderful and an easy (as easy as spending millions of dollars can be) solution to a lack of attractions problem. I’m open to other IP’s but these seem the most obvious.
Retheme Kali River Rapids
A less costly change would be a retheme of Kali River Rapids. I generally like water rides and the queue here is truly one of the best Disney has ever created. Unfortunately, once on the attraction the ride falls flat. Well, there is a drop but part of the issue is that there isn’t enough excitement here. The more fixable issue is that the theme is so heavy handed, dealing with conservation and just feeling pretty pessimistic. I’m all for theme park attractions with deep messages and Animal Kingdom has two (Kilimanjaro Safaris and Maharajah Jungle Trek) that do so exceptionally well. The problem is that a rapids ride where guests are prone to nervous giggling probably isn’t the time to tell them that a few tiger’s habitats are going to get burned down by human beings. Noble causes and themes need to be delivered in the right vehicle and a river raft isn’t it.
Replace Finding Nemo – The Musical and Rivers of Light
Generally, I’m a big fan of Animal Kingdom’s entertainment as they have a nice array of shows. Two options are prime for replacements though. Finding Nemo – The Musical is getting a little long in the tooth, opening in 2007. While the songs are decent and I like watching the puppeteering, having something fresh in this gigantic indoor theater would give some energy to the park. With all of the quirky entertainment in the park, seeing a straight forward Broadway style stage show here would be enjoyable! Tarzan, The Jungle Book, or Moana all come to mind that seem to fit in with the park’s identity.
Rivers of Light is a different story than Nemo, as the nighttime show never fully garnered the attention of the park’s guests. The show was high concept and lacking a general excitement. Even before the pandemic, it seemed to be getting phased out. Animal Kingdom could go on without a nighttime show but it has this beautiful theater and is in desperate need of finding things for guests to do at night. Adding new shows to these places makes a lot of sense not just for adding excitement to the park but to help spread out crowds from waiting in line. While I’m talking about shows, bring back Burudika please!
Bring Back the Discovery River Boats
The Discovery River Boats opened with the park in 1998 and closed only a year and a half later due to a low guest satisfaction rating. There wasn’t much to the attraction, as it mainly was a transportation service from Discovery Island to Asia. Boats continue to run throughout the park, used for character interaction currently, and the waterway is still in use. So, why bring it back? Well, adding transportation attractions to a park can be beneficial if they’re added with expectations in tow. Also, if reopened a few scenes could be added to make the ride more exciting. Using this large waterway would be an extremely easy way to add an attraction to the park.
Replace DinoLand with South America
We’ve covered DinoLand in great detail on this blog. The land is Animal Kingdom’s sore thumb despite having a few good pieces. I’m not advocating for a full tear down of DinoLand as I think Dinosaur and The Boneyard could stick around and work as a mini land or be molded into whatever takes the spot. Instead I’d like to see Chester & Hester’s taken out and replaced by South America or Australia. This would make for more animal exhibits and several other IP’s could fit into the different land. South America could be home to a fun few Amazon related things. Along with that Up takes place in South America and the Three Caballeros spend a lot of time in Brazil. You could even stretch that connection to Darkwing Duck and his zany cast of characters. Perhaps more importantly, South America would feel more congruent to the park than DinoLand does. If Disney wanted a more realist version of that area then they could take a few notes from Lost River Delta in Tokyo DisneySea, which incorporates a lot of greenery with a giant pyramid that houses a couple of Indiana Jones attractions. There’s no shortage of ways Disney could go about this but the large investment it would be may keep it from happening.
Animal Kingdom is one of the most interesting and beautiful theme parks in the world. Here’s to hoping that it continues to build on that reputation in the coming years!
What do you think should be done next at Animal Kingdom? Let us know in the comments below! Planning at trip to Disney World? Check out our Disney World Trip Planning Guide. If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog on the right side of this page. That’s where you can find links to our social media accounts, as well. Thank you for reading!
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